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Skater XL Review, Early Access Version

Developer: Easy Day Studios Pty Ltd Publisher: Easy Day Studios Pty Ltd Release: 28 July 2020 Reviewed on: PC

Welcome to our Skater XL review, the Early Access version. It is difficult to review games in Early Access, as our customary scoring method (x out of 10) isn’t really suited for this context. Therefore, we review Early Access games by providing you with a recommendation from our side concerning the state of the game. By the end of this Skater XL review, you will have a good idea whether you should buy the game now, wait a while before buying, wait until full release before buying or pack your bags and flee to a place where the game can never find you.

Skater XL California Skatepark
Clearing the gap [Image Credit: Easy Day Studios Pty Ltd]

With skateboarding games making a comeback with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater remastered around the corner, launching on the 4th of September 2020 and Skate 4 being announced by EA, you cannot really help yourself but get back into these types of games.

What is Skater XL?

Skater XL is a skateboarding game built using the Unity game development engine, and it’s more of a realistic representation of skateboarding where the longest combo is not necessarily what counts. It’s all about the satisfaction of doing  tricks. They released Skater XL as an early access title on Steam on the 19th December 2018 and at the time of writing, it boasts xxxx amount of positive Steam reviews. Skater XL gives players a pure skateboarding experience, removing lots of the arcade elements you can expect from other skateboarding titles. Let’s get into the part of the Skater XL review where we show you what to expect from the Skater XL in its current state, and some features we felt were missing.

What can you expect from Skate XL in its current form?

Skater XL is extremely barebones in its current state and here is what you can expect from Skater XL when you buy it today:

Is Skater XL’s gameplay any good?

If there is one thing Skater XL had to get right, it was the gameplay. They have built a solid mechanic for doing tricks. When the game is all about doing tricks, it is expected that the mechanic should be bulletproof. You can control both the player’s feet separately with the two joysticks on your controller. The mechanic immediately feels natural and doing a simple trick such as a kickflip feels amazing. 

How much content does Skater XL have?

Maps

West LA Courthouse. This map gives you the option to follow some pretty gnarly lines. It has everything from an empty water feature to a little pop-up stage where you can show off your manual skills to chain some tricks. This is the default map the game loads you into and I feel it’s small enough and has great open spaces for the player to get used to how the game plays.

The second map you can play is the California Skatepark. After I got to grips with the controls and had some of my favourite tricks locked in, what a better place to do them than an actual skatepark? I spent most of my time in this park because it has everything you can expect from a good skatepark. It even has an empty pool for those wanting to go get a taste of some vert skating.

Skater XL California Skatepark
California Skatepark [Image Credit: Easy Day Studios Pty Ltd]

One thing these two maps have in common, albeit on the negative side, is how empty they both feel. It feels as if you are the only person left on earth and the only thing you can do is skate or die. It’s not that terrible considering the game really focuses on skateboarding, but it would have been nice to see some random items lying around or even people moving around.

Tutorial

An easy to follow tutorial to get you on your board as quick as possible to start popping those 360 flips in style. The learning curve isn’t too steep either, as soon as you get used to how to pop the tricks using both feet, you’ll focus on doing more difficult tricks in no time. The only thing that took me a while was getting used to doing a manual. But again, as soon as I got that on lockdown, I was doing tricks like Daewon Song.

Skater XL Tutorial
Mastering a Shuvit [Image Credit: Easy Day Studios Pty Ltd]

Modding

Skater XL supports mods and has a large community supporting it. If you are into modding your game, the developers have a Discord server filled with tutorials and ideas to fuel the modding community. I personally like the vanilla experience and have not yet gone into any modifications to the game’s current state. For the purpose of this Skater XL review, we refrained from using any mods to keep the review purely on what you can expect when you start playing the game in its current state.

What I expected to be in the game:

Scoring or trick names

I expected some scoring system, I am not sure if this is the direction that the developers want to take the game though. Having a scoring system is one way to keep players engaged and give them a sense of purpose. With this being a pure skateboarding experience, I doubt we’ll see any type of scoring system in Skater XL’s future.

When it comes to doing tricks, it always feels rewarding and somewhat educational when you can see the trick’s name you just did. To make that experience even more complete, it would have been great to see an indication if your trick was sloppy or good. Not only do you get instant gratification, but it will also prompt you to become better at the game.

Damage system

Seeing some wear on both the character and your board always makes skateboard games feel more realistic and engaging. I remember playing Skate and it was such a great detail when you had a bad bail and you could see scuff marks on your character’s clothes and maybe a bruise or two. With board damage, there is something about the visible wear on your board that is extremely satisfying and makes you feel invested. 

I am currently playing another mobile skateboarding game called True Skate and in this game, when you do a boardslide, you can see the deck’s graphics come off. The wheels even pick up some dirt as you skate. I would have loved to see this detail in Skate XL.

In-depth Character customisation

Being a skater is all about how you express yourself. Whether you choose the skinniest jeans or the biggest sneakers, all these things are what makes you connect to your character. Right after you chose your look, you’d probably want to head over and select some sick graphics for your board, choose your wheels and some coloured trucks. Unfortunately, with the vanilla version of Skater XL, these features are not available. With the limited customisation in mind, it would be unfair to expect full product licenses from an Indie studio. The saving grace here is the fact that you can get your hands on alternatives through modding.

Skater XL Character customisation
Character customisation [Image Credit: Easy Day Studios Pty Ltd]

Bail animations

One thing that really took away from the experience is when you’re about to land a nollie 360 flip off the stairs and you bail, the bail does not feel solid. The goofy ragdoll behaviour takes a bit away from how involved you feel with trying the trick again. Just as much as landing the trick is part of skateboarding, so is bailing and cringing when you see a bad bail.

Skater XL bail
Bail animations [Image Credit: Easy Day Studios Pty Ltd]

What lies ahead for Skater XL?

With such a massive following on both Discord and Steam, it feels like the natural next move is to release the game to a wider audience of skaters. Skater XL will see it’s full release on the 28th of July 2020. It will be released on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. If that is not enough platforms, they also have a planned release shortly after getting Skater XL into the hands of Nintendo Switch players.

Our Skater XL recommendation 

Now we get to the part of the Skater XL review where we make our recommendation. Because the game is still in an early access phase, we will refrain from giving it a score but rather make a recommendation out of our experience with Skater XL. 

If you love how satisfying skateboard tricks look and the sound of popping an Ollie, then we would suggest you pick up Skater XL right now. It’s by no means perfect, but it definitely scratches the itch after wanting to get back into skateboarding games in 2020. We believe that because there is such a strong modding community behind Skater XL we will see some truly exciting things evolve over the game’s life cycle.